VAIL — On Sunday, backcountry skiers triggered two soft wind slab avalanches in the East Vail Chutes between Vail Pass and Vail Mountain.
In the second avalanche, which was triggered late Sunday afternoon, a skier was partially buried and sustained leg injuries, according to a Colorado Avalanche Information Center report from Tuesday, Dec. 24. The avalanche and initial seconds of a rescue attempt were captured on video by another skier in the area.
The skier that triggered the slide and was subsequently partially buried in the snow was forced to self-rescue, as the avalanche occurred just before dark and ski patrol could not get to the area safely, the report stated. There were no fatalities reported in connection with the two avalanches Sunday in East Vail.
Despite the happy ending, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center is reminding backcountry riders to take special care during the Christmas holiday, especially with more snow in the forecast. Two particular types of avalanches — wind slabs and persistent slabs — will continue to be a problem heading into Christmas Day.
Areas of greatest concern for these problems are slopes facing north through east to southeast, near and above treeline where recent new and wind drifted snow rest on deeper weak layers, the report stated. In many cases these fresh wind slabs have been quite soft, but are cohesive enough that fractures have propagated some distance wide.
If venturing into the backcountry this week, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report said riders should always watch their partners on their descent to a safe area in case of a slide. It also is good practice to remove pole straps before starting down a line.